Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just Catching Up

We truly have been blessed over these last several months by all the events, people, and grace the Lord has shown us. We enjoyed 3 whirlwind weeks in the states with countless highlights. We were able to meet with many friends and enjoy sweet fellowship. We had the joy of being with our children and grandchildren. We were especially blessed to be able to give a report to our home church.

Many of you know that we went to the states primarily to attend the MTW Missions Conference. We know that God touched many hearts during this event. We set up a table, put out brochures and had many visitors stop by, ask questions, or just visit for a while. We were encouraged by the preaching and the seminars we were able to attend. Please continue to pray with us that God would bring others to His work here.

Our Weekend Retreat~
We returned to Zlín and the next weekend attended the church retreat. It just so happened that the retreat fell on Thanksgiving — the American Thanksgiving, as the Czechs do not observe the holiday. The Czechs were gracious enough to allow the MTW team to serve several traditional Thanksgiving foods. So, we prepared good ol’ Southern cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, and apple crisp to go along with the dinner meal. Renata created some beautiful paper leaves with Scriptures written on them, like 1 Chronicles 16:8-12:
Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced.

After the meal the church gathered to sing, read the Scriptures, and give thanks to God for His many blessings over the past year. Some later told us of the impact this had upon them and how God used it in their lives.

We shared one of our family traditions with our church friends and neighbors last Saturday when we invited them to our tree decorating party. We were delighted when 25 or 30 people showed up, including several of our neighbors whom we had never previously met. Many of them stayed for quite a long time, not just the obligatory ten minutes. Everyone seemed to have a great time. One of our neighbors even expressed an interest in visiting the church. Our church members expressed a desire for more of these events. Please pray with us that we will open the doors of our flat and our hearts on a more regular basis. Pray also that the gospel would not only be heard, but seen.
Zlín Town Square
We were walking through the town square recently and saw a manger scene and next to it a pošta. The pošta is a box for mailing letters to baby Jesus. How interesting we thought. I asked Renata, our pastor’s wife, about it. She said the children here write letters to the baby Jesus asking for their Christmas gifts. It is baby Jesus who brings the gifts, not Santa Claus. He often comes in the late afternoon on December 24th. We don‘t see people dressed up a baby Jesus, since no one knows what He looks like, or so we have been told. All of this is very interesting in light of the extremely athestic culture in the Czech Republic. Only a very small percentage of the population would even consider that there is a God. Baby Jesus, it seems, has been minimalized and turned into a myth. How tragic it is that the true, great gift of Christmas is present in the culture and yet not seen at all because of blindness and unbelief.

The Baby Jesus Pošta

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter In Zlin

 Nearby are some recent pictures from our little city.  In the past week or so, winter has delivered about 12 inches of snow and lows in the single digits (fahrenheit).  We are very thankful to have warm clothes and a very cozy flat.  We read in the news last week that 30 homeless men died in Poland due to the harsh onset of winter.  The days are pretty short now.  The sun doesn't rise until after 7:00 a.m. and it sets before 4:00 p.m.  Even at noon, the sun doesn't make it to 45 degrees above the horizon.
Almost everyone goes around bundled up in heavy coats, scarves, gloves, hats, and boots, but some of the Czechs will brave the weather with bare heads.  We saw a man run into the post office last week in shorts and a T-shirt!  Surely he wasn't planning on staying out too long! 

Another of the photos in this post shows something new to us.  The traditional manger scene is accompanied by a small post box so children can send letters to Baby Jesus requesting the gifts they want for Christmas.  Czechs tell their children that little Jesus brings the presents at Christmas.  The role of St. Nick (Svatý Mikulaš) is to visit children on his special day (the eve of Dec. 6th) and talk to them about their behavior during the previous year.  He is accompanied by an angel who rewards good children with a small gift and a demon who warns children and gives a lump of coal or a potato to those who have misbehaved; especially bad children might be bound up in a sack and carried away by the demon, although I understand this rarely happens today.  Parents here usually find someone known to the family to play the roles of these traditional characters.